Breaking up is hard to do. When Neil Sedaka wrote those words, I am fairly confident he was not referring to breaking up with your child’s daycare provider. Nevertheless, they apply just as well. My daughter started with her daycare just after she turned one and, apart from trips out of town with us to visit family, it is the only out-of-home care she has ever had. It is the place where she first got used to not having mama or dada around with her all day. It is where she met her first little friend. It is where she made her first piece of Father’s Day art for us to take home and hang on the wall (it’s a masterpiece, in case you are wondering). In short, it is a place with a lot of good memories for her.
And it is not just good memories on my daughter’s part. When my daughter first started daycare, her caretaker patiently returned my guilt-ridden morning phone calls to assure me that my daughter had stopped crying almost as soon as I had stepped out the door. I spent plenty of time with my daughter’s daycare provider chatting about different parenting styles, charting milestones, and laughing over my daughter’s little quirks. While not exactly friends, we came to genuinely like one another and to enjoy our little drop-off and pick-up visits. She has become an integral part of my daughter’s toddlerhood.
So why am I breaking up with her? Well, as with most relationships, it’s complicated. There is the fact that we are moving closer to downtown, so the trip to and from my daughter’s current daycare will now add an extra hour to our already busy day. And of course we are concerned because the little friends at my daughter’s daycare are moving away, and she will not have anyone in her age group to play with anymore. Oh, and there were also those three times my daughter took off running to the road with her daycare provider in hot pursuit. Yeah, that happened, and I have had nightmares ever since.
Obviously, I have very good reasons to move my daughter to a new daycare. And even if I was just moving her on a whim, she is my child and it is completely my call. So why is it do damn hard?
Part of it, I think, is that I know my daughter has become very fond of her daycare provider. Each morning as we get her shoes on, my little one asks in a hopeful voice if she will get to see her daycare provider. Lately, each time she asks I feel sad, and not to mention a little guilty, that very soon I will have to tell her no, she will not be seeing her. Combine that with the fact that my daughter’s favourite new word is ”why”, and you have the perfect recipe for feeling like the meanest mother ever.
Still, I can deal with that. Don’t all mothers have to be ”mean” sometimes? After all, it is not as if toddlers are known for their critical thinking skills. There are bound to be a lot of things which will probably seem like an awesome idea to her, but I will have to squash it without mercy. In a way, changing daycare providers is like the entree of the long meal that is parenthood; if you can’t handle that, you are in for one loooong night.
Perhaps breaking up with my daycare provider is so hard since I picked her specifically because I thought she was the best person to provide my daughter with a safe and happy place while I was away. Contrary to what some people seem to think, we parents do not just blithely drop our children off with the first person who will take them, and then go on our merry way without a second thought. Choosing a daycare provider for my daughter was a difficult and stressful task. Having to tell the woman I trusted to look after my daughter that I don’t consider her care to be the best thing for my daughter anymore, for whatever reason, is tough. Then again, that is not really the root of it either. I’m no self-styled mama bear, but if the choice is between hurting someone’s feelings and what is best for my daughter, then those feelings be damned!
No, if I am really honest with myself I think the reason this has all been so hard is because it means my daughter truly is growing up. Now don’t get me wrong I am not trying to desperately cling to my daughter’s baby years. Truthfully, she gets more and more fun the older she gets. And I wait in readiness for the days when she is old enough to go play with friends and I finally have uninterrupted time to read crappy mystery books one after the other. But growing up is all about going forward and, quite frankly, moving on. And this leaving behind a person who has been a huge part of my daughter’s life, and who genuinely cares about her is the first little step my daughter is taking on that journey.
So when I do finally pick my daughter up from her old daycare for the last time, you can bet it will be with more than a little sadness, a whole heap of nostalgia, and some Neil Sedaka blaring on the radio. It’s that hard to do.